Category Music

Sixth Annual “Songs of Summer”

Three songs, summer-themed, on or very near the solstice. A respite, a celebration, a salute to whatever shreds of sanity, shoots of hope and shards of joy  we may be able to cultivate in a world that often seems hellbent, for rather baffling reasons, on denying them all.

Welcome to the Sixth Annual Songs of Summer! If you’re new to this space and wondering why so-and-such song isn’t in the lineup, it may well have already had its moment in the sun, sun, sun, either here or here or here or here or here. (Those will take you to years one through five if you feel in the mood for an orgy of summer sounds, minus the cicadas.)

So, to cite a beloved phrase from another summer pastime of some renown: “Batter up!”

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The big choice in “Summer Rain” was whether to present Johnny Rivers in his so-called prime in 1973, or to put a 2013 version in front of you. In the latter,  Johnny (“Secret Agent Man,” “Poor S...

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Brilliant Songs No. 2: Dawes’s “A Little Bit of Everything”  

With his back against the San Francisco traffic
On the bridge’s side that faces towards the jail
Setting out to join a demographic
He hoists his first leg up over the rail

With those first four lines of plaintive scene setting just above a simple piano riff, songwriter Taylor Goldsmith of the folk/rock/indie band Dawes places listeners right there behind yet another Golden Gate Bridge would-be suicide jumper, perhaps reflexively reaching their arms out or emitting an involuntary and horrified, “NooooooDON’T DO IT!”

Talk about the power of words to imagine, to relate, to respond.

I am indebted to reader and friend Randall Chet for bringing “A Little Bit of Everything” to my attention in the Comments section of the inaugural entry in this “Brilliant Songs” series. I had never heard of Dawes nor this song, but I have found it staying with and accompanying me on my walks, my garden-tending, ...

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Swan Songs: A Departing Symphony Conductor’s Homage to Mahler’s Ninth

Program selection is an art in itself among symphony conductors, quite apart from everything they do at the podium. But some program choices come easy, which appeared to be the case this past weekend in Santa Rosa Symphony Conductor Bruno Ferrandis’s farewell concert after a robust 12-year tenure.

For his final concert weekend, the last performance of which I was privileged to see and hear on Monday night, he zeroed in on Gustav Mahler’s epic Ninth Symphony, long in duration (80+ minutes, depending on who’s conducting) and large as only an ambitious symphony can be in emotional force.

Mahler’s Ninth, quite uncoincidentally, is about endings, leave-takings, death, a subject it explores on a grand scale before it finally, ever so delicately, like the tiniest moth landing on a slowly swaying blade of grass, comes to rest and silence in a final movement wholly unlike any other in the repertoire.

Ferra...

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Brilliant Songs No. 1: Tom Russell’s “The Eyes of Roberto Duran”

So many great songs and songwriters, true poets who weave the disparate shards of life happening before their eyes into something intense, insightful, and profound as that life, every life, deserves. Seeing what we see only dimly or not at all, marching up to questions we shy from and coaxing from them words and images of beauty and inspiration or dead-on-the-money, troubling truth.

So it’s time to have a little more sustained fun with all that, in the form of a series hosted here at Traversing entitled as you see in the headline slot above: “Brilliant Songs.”

I’ll aim for monthly, may slack from or increase that, who knows? (I’m old, and inclined to chafe at schedules…)

What we’ll do is give the song a You Tube play, present, admire and explore the lyrics for a bit (may probe some pure instrumentals as well), draw what we can from them and see where the whole enterprise takes us.

Yes, I’l...

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The World’s Best Love Song

The world’s best love song doesn’t have “love” in the title, nor does it appear on any “Best” lists that I could find of the most love-centric titles for Valentine’s Day. No “Love Me Tender,””Greatest Love of All,” “She Loves You” (“yeah, yeah, yeah!”), “Love Is Blue,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “How Deep Is Your Love.”

None of that.

Instead, the world’s best love song is titled, “Sham-A-Ling-Dong-Ding,” and it may just be the now departed singer-songwriter Jesse Winchester’s finest work in an illustrious, if under-appreciated career.

The silly title is both fun and deceiving, offering Winchester a playful refrain that could easily have been rendered into a clever har-de-har bit of laughter, an inconsequential breather (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) in an ouevre that sparkles with lyrical originality, accessible, compulsively singable tunes,...

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